How difficult is it to lose baby fat? Well, it depends on how much fat you carry before and during pregnancy, according to a study that was conducted in Oregon at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results of the study have just been published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Nearly 1,700 women with a body mass index at or above 30 (clinically obese) who had given birth between 2000 and 2005 were examined. The study concluded that this group of women both put on more weight than recommended during their pregnancies and had a harder time losing it afterwards. The recommended weight gain for a woman with a BMI of 30 or above at the start of her pregnancy is 15 pounds. Researchers noted that 70% of the women in the study gained more weight than recommended, and that the average woman in this group lost only 60% of that weight after 18 months.
The additional weight is a concern for the health of the women in this group, and also for their babies. The complications that can be caused by putting on too much weight during pregnancy include hypertension, preeclampsia and diabetes, leading to heavier babies, higher risk of C-sections, and a greater risk of birthing injuries for both the mother and the child.
Researchers found that women in this group who gained less than 15 pounds during their pregnancies were only half as likely to retain more than 10 pounds or more after a year and a half. Women who gained over 35 pounds during their pregnancies were 8 times as likely to be retaining at least 10 pounds of their pregnancy gain after a year and a half. Older mothers and mothers with previous full-term pregnancies were less likely to gain more than 15 pounds than younger mothers and first time mothers.
Kaiser Permanente recommends that pregnant women follow a few tips to control their weight gain during pregnancy, including the following:
- Pay attention to what you’re eating. Have 8-12 portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Eat small amounts of healthy snacks in between meal times and eat your meals at regular times.
- Limit your fat intake to no more than 30% of your total calorie intake.
- Limit your intake of sweets and sugary drinks as much as possible.
- If needed, write down everything you eat to help you keep track of your intake.
- You do need extra nutrition during pregnancy, so make sure you get 3 servings of dairy products, choosing low-fat options, but limit your calorie intake to around 200 calories per day more than before pregnancy.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. If this is new for you, then consult with your doctor about acceptable exercise routines that will be safe for you and for your baby.
Experts do not recommend that pregnant and nursing mothers engage in harsh diet programs to try to lose large amounts of weight. Rather, being as conscientious as possible to limit weight gain during pregnancy and nursing will make it easier to get to a healthy weight after nursing.